No Deal, no problem. Let’s get out and claim our Brexit bonus
BY JOHN REDWOOD
The UK will leave the EU on October 31, “do or die”. So says the Prime Minister and he should know.
The UK has a fine democratic tradition. When a governing party loses an election it resigns. The Prime Minister moves out of Downing Street promptly and the new government chosen by the people takes office almost immediately. No one suggest the voters were misled or failed to understand the mighty issues at the core of the election choice. No one says the change will be too sudden or too disruptive of people’s arrangements. We expect the politicians to carry out the popular decision.
Leave voters expected the same to happen with the decision to exit the EU. Those of a certain age who in their youth had voted to leave the European Economic Community in the 1975 referendum had after all accepted the then verdict of the UK people. There had been no campaign to say the people had been lied to or to demand a second chance shortly after the first. They accepted that the government of the day had been able to use the power of government to urge a Yes vote to staying in. They even accepted that the Remain campaign then had the right to characterise the EEC as just a Common market, though many Remain voters thought that was deeply misleading given the clear pledge to ever closer union in the founding Treaty and the ambitions of many on the continent to make it about much more than trade. These alternative points had been made in the referendum campaign and it had not persuaded enough people. It was many years later when it was crystal clear the EU was so much more than a common market that pressure grew for a referendum on what the EU had become.
The Prime Minister is right to say the will of the people must be carried out, deal or no deal. Mrs May in her early months claimed to want to implement Brexit and wisely said No deal would be better than a bad deal. Later she tried to invent a complex new partnership with the EU that looked much like staying in without vote or voice. Her deal struck Leave and remain voters alike as bad deal, but she forgot her own mantra and insisted we had to sign up. That fateful decision led to her treble defeat in the Commons and the loss of office.
The present Prime Minister understands that his election and the current improved popularity of the Conservatives rests on the expectation that he will honour his promise to get us out. He is trying to get a new deal from the EU as he also promised, but it is not looking very likely that the EU will set aside the Irish backstop let alone all the other undesirable features of the Withdrawal Agreement which thwart Brexit. Leaving without signing the Treaty is clearly better than signing it.
It means we can from 1 November turn to spending all the money we save in EU contributions. That will offer a good boost to public services and to growth from tax cuts. We can start to restore our fishing grounds and rebuild our domestic fishing industry with it under our own control. We can help cut food miles by fostering more domestic food production as some tariffs fall on EU produce. We can get rid of VAT on things that should not attract it. We can negotiate free trade agreements that suit the UK with other countries like the USA, Australia and New Zealand.
Using the money to boost our economy means we should be better off than delaying our exit again. The scare stories which say we will not be able to import food and medicines are silly. EU exporters are not wanting to cancel their contracts to supply us. The UK government regulates and controls our ports of entry, and they have no wish to impose new crippling rules that delay or impede our imports. Calais has assured the world they want to keep their substantial UK business and will organise accordingly. Just in time supply chains today have to handle continental strikes, road traffic delays, accidents and other impediments. The onus is on the supplier to send the goods sufficiently in advance so they arrive when the customer wants them. The same will be true after we have left. Components for factories at the moment come successfully from non EU as well as from EU sources. With the UK removing tariffs from many items when we leave manufacturers will have more choice of tariff free component in future, with non EU components cheaper as we lift the tariffs.
The government has promised us a Brexit bonus budget. Bring it on. The UK economy needs a stimulus at a time of world slowdown.
John Redwood is the Conservative MP for Wokingham and Visiting Professor at Middlesex University Business School. Follow him on twitter: @johnredwood